‘Sober House’ Neighbor Files Lawsuit, Seeks Temporary Injunction To Halt Operation

Saying the operation of a post-rehab facility next door violates zoning regulations, devalues area properties and brings unwanted density, noise and traffic, a neighbor of the “sober house” running out of a northwestern New Canaan home last week filed a lawsuit seeking to halt its operation. The use of an 8,000-square-foot home on West Road as a non-medical facility for men has and, “if not restrained, will continue to create a danger to the public health, safety and/or welfare,” according to a complaint filed Friday in state Superior Court in Stamford on behalf of Thom Harrow. Unless it’s stopped, the sober house “will continue to unreasonably interfere with the peaceful use, occupancy and enjoyment by the plaintiff of the Harrow property and other neighboring residents of the town of New Canaan from the peaceful use, occupancy and enjoyment of their properties,” according to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Linda Pesce Laske of Bridgeport-based Green & Gross PC. The Feb. 10 filing includes an application for temporary injunction and order to show cause.

Next-Door Neighbor Files Formal Appeal of Town’s Decision That ‘Sober House’ Is Allowed

Citing the definition of ‘family’ in the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, a next-door neighbor of the West Road home to be operated as a “sober house” has appealed the town planner’s finding that the property can be used as such in a residential zone. Describing the four-acre zone as “an area zoned for single-family homes” and noting that a sober house’s residents are not related to each other and include support staff, the appeal from Thom Harrow of West Road said the proposed use “is inconsistent with the definition of a family as set out in the Town Zoning Regulations, inasmuch as the proposed use provides housing for as many as eight people and related staff.”

“Pursuant to General Statutes Sect 8-7, this is an appeal from an order of a planning & zoning official which does not prohibit further construction or expansion of a use, and as such, the filing of this appeal stays the order and [The] Lighthouse is not permitted to occupy or use” the West Road home “for the stated purpose until this board resolves the appeal.”

The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to meet Monday. It isn’t clear whether the appeal, received by the town Jan. 23, was filed in time to make that meeting’s agenda. Under the regulations (see page 18 here), ‘family’ is defined as “any number of individuals related by blood, legal adoption or marriage and up to two additional unrelated individuals living and cooking together on the premises as a single housekeeping unit, as distinguished from a group occupying a boarding or rooming house or hotel.”

Since the town planner, on advice from the town attorney, asserted that the sober house is a permitted use at the West Road address, neighbors have spoken out against that finding specifically and more generally about a for-profit business such as The Lighthouse being allowed to operate unchecked and without a public hearing or permit in a residential zone.